How to see and delete incognito history

Tips & tricks
6 mins
It's possible to see your incognito history, but you can also delete it.

If you care about your privacy, it’s always a good idea to browse using incognito mode, also known as private browsing or privacy mode. But there might come times when you want to find the sites you had visited while incognito. While your browsing activity is not saved by the browser itself, there are some ways to retrieve it—but it takes some patience and possibly pre-planning.

Jump to…
What does incognito mode do?
Does incognito mode save your browsing history?
How to see incognito history
How to delete incognito history
How to hide your browsing activity and increase anonymity

What does incognito mode do?

Incognito mode is a feature available in most modern web browsers that allows users to browse the internet without leaving browsing history. While it provides some level of privacy, it’s important to understand what incognito mode does and doesn’t do.

What incognito mode does:

  • No browsing history. When using incognito mode, your browsing history is not stored by your browser (but as you’ll see, it could be stored in more hidden places on your device). It helps maintain your privacy if you’re sharing a device and don’t want others to see your browsing history.
  • No autofill or remembering passwords. Incognito mode disables the autofill feature, so your usernames, passwords, and other form data are not saved. This can be useful if you’re using a public computer or someone else’s device, as it reduces the risk of your login credentials being saved or accessed by others.
  • Limited cookies and tracking. Incognito mode restricts the use of cookies and other tracking mechanisms, making it harder for websites to track your online activities and serve targeted advertisements. 

What incognito mode doesn’t do:

  • Anonymity. Incognito mode does not make you completely anonymous online. While it prevents your local device from storing browsing history, websites you visit, your internet service provider (ISP), and network administrators can still track your activities. It doesn’t hide your IP address or encrypt your internet connection.
  • Security. Incognito mode does not provide additional security measures. It doesn’t protect you from malware, phishing attacks, or other online threats.
  • Activity concealment: Incognito mode doesn’t hide your activities from the websites you visit. Website owners, internet service providers, and network administrators can still monitor your online behavior.

Does incognito mode save your browsing history?

No, when using incognito mode, the browser does not keep a record of the websites you visit, the search queries you enter, or the cookies and temporary files associated with your browsing session. 

However, there are certain tricks that can allow you to find out what someone browsed while using incognito mode. The sleuthing does not happen within the browser itself; you’ll have to check the DNS cache on your computer or use third-party apps or browser extensions. Using obscure apps can come with privacy and security risks, so consider each one carefully before doing so.

How to see incognito history

If you are using a Windows or Mac computer, it is possible to access your incognito history by examining the DNS cache. You can also record your incognito history using browser extensions. Here’s how these methods work.

On Windows PC

If you’re using a Windows device, you can see your incognito history in your DNS cache, even after your browsing session ends. The Domain Name System (DNS) matches a website’s URL with its IP address. When you type a URL into your web browser, a DNS server finds the IP address of that website so you can actually visit it. This information is recorded in the DNS cache even when you’re browsing incognito. The DNS cache helps speed up your browsing by ensuring your browser doesn’t have to check the DNS server every time to revisit a site.

If you need to recover or clear your incognito history — or delete your browsing history entirely — you can do it via the DNS cache on a Windows device.

Here’s how to check your browsing history via the DNS cache:

  1. Click the Start menu
  2. Type cmd in the search bar to open Command Prompt
  3. Click Run as administrator
  4. Enter the command ipconfig/displaydns
  5. Hit Enter. You’ll see your DNS cache history.

On macOS

On an Apple computer, incognito history can also be found in the DNS cache. When you navigate to a website, the name of the site is translated into an IP address when your Mac consults a DNS directory. In order to avoid having to consult the directory every time you visit a site, the records of sites you visit are cached. Viewing that cache isn’t easy, but it can be done. You’ll need to use both the Console and Terminal applications. Here’s how.

  1. Go to Applications > Utilities and open Console
  2. Select your Mac in the sidebar under Devices
  3. In the search box, type: any:mdnsresponder
  4. Press the Start button in the toolbar
  5. Go back to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal
  6. Type the following into Terminal: sudo killall -INFO mDNSResponder
  7. Press Enter
  8. Type in your admin password
  9. Go back to the Console app, and you’ll be able to see the cached DNS records

With browser extensions

There are Chrome browser extensions out there that promise to record all browsing history, including incognito history. These tend to have strong stalkerware vibes, so we don’t condone their use—they seem creepy and unethical. 

However, Off the Record History is one to try. It is designed to give you more flexibility with incognito browsing by allowing you to save your history for a few days and delete it manually sooner than that. Simply add the extension to Chrome, then ensure that you adjust your settings for the extension to “Allow in incognito.”

On Android and iOS devices

You cannot retrieve incognito history using DNS cache. But you can set up your phone to record incognito browsing history by using third-party tracking apps. For example, there are parental control apps which, if installed on a kid’s phone, will reveal all their browsing activity, including incognito. Stalkerware apps can also serve this purpose, but, again, we don’t condone their use.

How to delete incognito history

In general, you don’t have to do anything to delete incognito history—it’s not saved by your browser. Only someone determined to snoop on it will find it using the above methods. If you want to get rid of any trace of your incognito browsing history, here’s how to clear your DNS cache on various devices.

On Windows

Here’s how to clear your DNS cache:

  1. Click the Start menu
  2. Type cmd in the search bar to open Command Prompt
  3. Click Run as administrator
  4. Enter the command ipconfig/flushdns
  5. Hit Enter

On macOS

Flush your DNS cache on macOS with these steps:

  1. Go back to Applications > Utilities and open Terminal
  2. Type the following into Terminal: sudo killall -HUP mDNSResponder
  3. Press Enter
  4. Type in your admin password

How to hide your browsing activity and increase your anonymity 

Incognito mode is a convenient way to ensure your browsing history is not easily visible to anyone else who uses your computer. But your online activity may still be visible to numerous third parties. These include:

  • Internet service providers. Your ISP has the ability to monitor and track your online activities. 
  • Websites and online services. When you visit websites or use online services, they can collect information about your activities.
  • Government agencies. Depending on your jurisdiction, government agencies may have the authority to monitor online activities for security, law enforcement, or intelligence purposes.
  • Network administrators. If you are using a network provided by an organization, such as a school or workplace, network administrators can monitor and log your internet activities.

The simplest way to hide your browsing—incognito or otherwise—from third parties, is by using a VPN. A VPN encrypts your traffic, making it indecipherable to anyone whom you aren’t directly communicating with. It also gives you a different IP address, making it much harder for anyone to figure out who you are or to build a profile on you based on your interests. 

FAQ: About incognito history

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Vanessa is an editor of the blog.